What it means: That finally, the Yankees have played the kind of game they are supposed to be playing at this time of the season, with a postseason berth at stake. And with the Orioles waxing the Red Sox, 9-1, in Baltimore, the Yankees needed this 11-4 win to maintain their one-game edge in the AL East.
The bats came alive vs. rookie RHP Chad Jenkins and the Toronto bullpen -- nine two-out RBIs tonight! -- and the Yankees survived another sub-par outing by Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up six extra-base hits, five doubles and a HR, in 5-1/3 innings to escape with his 15th win of the season. But it’s not all rosy -- despite only allowing two runs tonight, Kuroda was touched up for 10 hits and his September ERA is 5.22.
Magic Numbers: Now down to 5 for the Yankees to win the division, 2 to qualify for a playoff spot.
First blood: The Yankees jumped on Jenkins in the first inning, scoring two runs on singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a double by Nick Swisher. And they could have had another one if not for a spectacular play in which Curtis Granderson lined the ball so hard back through the middle, it tore Jenkins' glove from his hand. But Jenkins caught the dislodged mitt before it hit the ground to end the inning.
Accidental Hiro: Kuroda gave up five hits, including three doubles, in the first two innings but somehow escaped unscathed, thanks to the largesse of the Blue Jays, who twice ran themselves out of potential big innings. After Brett Lawrie led off the first inning with a double, he strayed too far off the bag on Colby Rasmus' grounder to first, and was thrown out in no-man's land by Swisher. Two batters later, J.P. Arencibia singled, a hit that probably would have scored Lawrie. And in the second, Yunel Escobar doubled off the base of the center field fence and advanced to third on a wild pitch -- then got picked off by Russell Martin on a third-strike to Kelly Johnson. The Blue Jays even loaded the bases again in that inning, on a single, a double and a walk, but Kuroda escaped again by catching Rasmus looking at a fastball to end the inning.
Russ belt: Martin's three-run homer in the sixth inning, which gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead, was his 20th of the season, a career high. The Jays pulled Brett Cecil and brought in Jason Frasor specifically to pitch to Martin, and it backfired spectacularly when Martin lashed a full-count slider over the left-field fence. Martin now has 6 HRs and 16 RBIs in September.
Uh-oh: Cano got hit on the side of the left hand by Cecil leading off the sixth, and for a moment visions of A-Rod having his hand broken by Felix Hernandez no doubt flew through a lot of minds in the Yankees' dugout. But Cano shook it off and stayed in the game; we'll get a report in the clubhouse later.
100-200 club?: Granderson is now three RBIs and 10 strikeouts short of joining a club no Yankee has ever been a member of: The 100 RBI/200 K club. Grandy had no ribbies tonight, but his fifth-inning K extended his franchise record for strikeouts in a season to 190. And counting.
Really, Joe?: With two out in the bottom of the ninth, the game pushing four hours long and the Yankees leading by seven runs, Joe Girardi thought it was time to make a pitching change. So he pulled Cody Eppley and brought in his closer, Rafael Soriano, to get the final out of the game. Which he did, but only after walking Adam Lind.